The Sunday Intertitle: An Imperfect Storm

It’s at present impossible to get ahold of STURME DER LEIDESCHAFT, which is a pity because I’m writing an article about Robert Siodmak and it’s maybe his most important German film, or anyway the one which shines the brightest light on his later American thrillers. What I *can* get is TUMULTES, the French-language version made simultaneously with SDL, in which Charles Boyer substitutes for Emil Jannings and Florelle subs for Anna Sten (she of the famous gun).

AND I can also get a soundie version of SDL, released in Italy as TEMPESTE DI PASSIONE. This version deletes chunks of plot, jettisons the whole soundtrack, apart from the singing, turning a talkie into a quasi-silent. I guess this was the most cost-effective way to make a foreign version in 1932.

It’s quite odd seeing Jannings with Italian intertitles — somehow his natural ebullience as an actor goes quite well with the language, so that even though the film is clearly set in Berlin, a Roman flavour escapes into it. Meanwhile, the picture quality is pretty bad, but worth putting up with for such dramatic and atmospheric values of the proto-noir that seep through, and for the eeriness of the soundie medium, from which human speech has been subtracted, except for moments of song.

However, a glance at TUMULTES reveals the true quality of the cinematography and Friedrich Hollander’s music, and makes me want to write one of those “why oh why” pieces about the lack of DVD releases for classic movies like this. Of course, we know the “why” — it has to do with money and capitalism, phenomena which have made cinema as we know it possible, but have also tended to limit it in countless ways…

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11 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: An Imperfect Storm”

  1. A Peacock Says:

    For the craft I think complete independence is the only way forward ala Pedro Costa who does camera, has somebody do sound, and that’s it for his crew!

    Sad to think there’s some films which may never get a home video release due to being ‘too obscure’

  2. mmedin Says:

    Most titles are “too obscure” for anyone but us and our fellow commenters and readers on other film blogs. At least there are some business models that are being developed to get more old films out there. Warner Archives is the best example of that, they only burn something when they get an order, and the print you’ll receive is of only slightly better quality (no bugs, no cable broadcast degradation) than that they use on TCM. Not ideal, but for the minuscule amount of sales of a lot of the titles, it’s not a bad compromise. Their library is huge, which makes minimizing the even tiny risk by including some more popular titles easy. Other, better models (for us) exist, but they deal in a measure of risk for the companies, which tend to be small. It’s why we get Criterions of pop hits, I guess. Cushions them from risk by using their reputation to promote popcorn blockbusters that are easy sales.

    Then again, if you’re in Europe there’s always the Pirate Party :)

  3. If the industry does finish splitting between giant studio blockbusters (which show no signs of dying out) and tiny Costa style indies, it’s going to be interesting to see where the next generation of blockbuster directors come from. Medium-sized films may be necessary just to train them, otherwise the risk involved is staggering.

    Alternative distribution models may be the way forward, with easy legit availability being the only defense against piracy (apart from draconian penalties, which we’re also getting).

    Siodmak’s movie world is so seductive and voluminous that a really big collection seems like a possible answer to his particular problem: The Killers and Criss Cross could cushion the risk of releasing more obscure titles. But the rights are no doubt scattered around the globe.

  4. I’m amused that Boyer’s character in TUMULTES is named Ralph Schwarz, the lead in a film that I’ve read has no redeeming characters. Not as light or as entertaining as PIEGES, so says one IMDB commenter. Which is fine by me, I’d take Boyer over Chevalier any day. The darker the better for my money. I thoroughly enjoyed Boyer in Lang’s LILIOM, I’m sure I’d like him in this.

  5. Speaking of the “too obscure”. . .

  6. Christopher Says:

    people are crying out for ART..more now than ever!..Everytime I go around the Web to various classic film blogs and on You tube,the majority of participants appear to be under 30 years of age and a great deal under 20 years..Great films like classic paintings and music,will live on and on,thanks largely to the internet and TCM..come on you big DVD companies!..join the bandwagon!

  7. Not to mention. . .

  8. I was interested in seeing some Jack Bond, thanks! That VO is very “Secrets of Sex”! And I’ve always been ontrigued by the though of the Pet Shop Boys movie. There’s a Ray Davies film too…

    I’m guessing Boyer chose “Ralph Schwarz” because he didn’t want to be “Gustav Bumke”, which is the Jannings version’s name.

  9. Interetsing point. Isn’t the absence of medium-sized movies exactly why most blockbuster directors are now picked from either pop promos or telly?

  10. Also in the cast of Separation: Iain Quarrier and Joy Bang.

    Bond also directed The Naked Civil Servant

    The score for It Couldn’t Happen Here is a collaboration between the Pet Shop Boys and

    (wait for it)

    Ennio Morricone

  11. Naked Civil Servant is Jack Gold, I think, an estimable TV director who couldn’t quite make it in the cinema (bad timing may have played a part).

    Simon, you’re right. It just seems to me to be a slightly crazy career path.

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